How to Create a Communal School Playground

Communal school playgrounds

Social interaction is incredibly vital for young people. It helps the development of language and communication; it forges and strengthens interpersonal relationships, and it enables children to acquire the key social skills that they’ll need to rely on for the rest of their lives. As most social interaction happens during free time, creating a communal school playground that facilitates and promotes interaction can be highly beneficial. Not only does it allow children to benefit from social interaction in the future; it caters for their happiness and wellbeing needs today. Here, we look at some of the features you can add to your playground to make it more communal.

A sports zone

By their very nature, team sports involve a great deal of social interaction. There’s the camaraderie within each team, the banter between teams, and taking part requires people to adopt roles, negotiate, communicate and follow a set of rules. In this sense, team sports are of high value when it comes to social interaction and facilitating them should be high on the agenda when creating a communal playground.

There are plenty of choices available for schools when it comes to adding a team sports zone to a playground. For those with larger budgets, there’s always the option of installing artificial grass pitches for sports like football, hockey, tennis, cricket and rugby. A more affordable option is to have playground markings added to your existing surfacing. These are available for sports such as football, netball, basketball, cricket and tennis. For schools with smaller playgrounds, it is even possible to get a multicourt, where the markings for three separate sports are overlaid in different colours, so children can interchange which games they play. Of course, these markings can be embellished with the requisite goals and nets, and there are even multi-form versions of these to go with the multicourt.

A roleplay area

Roleplay is something younger children do naturally. It’s a key part of growing up that helps them discover how the world is through playing characters and acting out scenarios. Through roleplay, children learn about people, relationships, roles, rules and status. It helps them develop social skills and develop problem-solving, communication, empathy and self-confidence. It’s a rich source of essential learning that also has the benefit of being great fun.

Facilitating roleplay can easily be done just by leaving a basket of costume pieces and props to play with. Provide a pram and a doll, for example, and a child will take on the role of a parent and their friends as doctors, shopkeepers, grandparents or other characters. For more thrilling roleplay, our wide range of imaginative play equipment can help take their inventiveness even further. Our collection includes shop kiosks, play trains, playboats, castle-themed climbing towers and much more.

A communal seating area

Hanging out is also important for social interaction. It’s where ideas and opinions are discussed, views exchanged, similarities and differences explored and where relationships bond. All communal playgrounds should have somewhere where children can simply just sit in their friendship groups and chat, even if it’s about nothing more than their favourite band, team or Tik-Tok video.

From circular benches and picnic tables, to play huts and large octagonal shelters, there is plenty of seating equipment now available that’s specifically designed to encourage social interaction in the playground and provide children with comfortable places to sit or eat.

A climbing zone

Whether it’s a play tower, trim tail, rope climbing equipment or a climbing frame, children love to play on them with their friends. They inspire roleplay and present new challenges while requiring children to communicate constantly as they make use of them or try to get from A to B. We often see children in climbing zones helping others get around, giving encouragement and praising success, all key ingredients to making a playground more inclusive and communal.

A games zone

Creating a playground game zone is another way to encourage social interaction and provide entertainment. Playing games together strengthens bonds between children and improves their communication and interpersonal skills.

Playground markings can be installed for traditional hopscotch and skipping type games, and modern tabletop games with built-in seating can be purchased for those that are less inclined to physical activity and are more interested in strategy games, like chess, ludo, snakes and ladders and Connect 4. We also have table games available, like spinning football, puzzles and table tennis.

Conclusion

A communal playground is one in which every member of the school community feels welcome and in which all pupils are given the facilities and encouragement to interact with each other. This type of environment is essential for developing social and interpersonal skills and helps the school be a more harmonious and inclusive place to attend. If you are looking to make your playground more communal, hopefully, the ideas suggested here will help.

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Why Zoned School Playgrounds Have New Importance

zoned school playgrounds

Zoned school playgrounds have become increasingly popular in modern playground design, providing a range of benefits for pupils and schools alike. However, following the lockdown, they have taken on new importance, providing enhanced social distancing and increased safety. Here, we’ll look at zoned playgrounds and their advantages over traditional schoolyards.

What are zoned school playgrounds?

A zoned playground, quite simply, is a school playground where the equipment provided for the children is laid out in discrete activity areas, strategically placed to improve safety and enhance amenity.

Zones can be created for different types of pupil or activity. So, for example, a school can have different zones for EYFS, KS1 and KS2 pupils, each with age-appropriate equipment, or it can create separate zones for sports, climbing, roleplay, creativity, nature, sensory play and so forth.

Built-in safety

One of the key problems with traditional playgrounds is that activities often overlap and this can lead to potential safety issues, such as footballs flying off the pitch and knocking a pupil off a climbing wall or a pupil with skipping ropes tripping up someone playing tig in the same area. By putting these activities into separate zones, you reduce the risk of these accidents happening – especially when the designer can make sure that potentially hazardous zones are located away from each other.

Covid-19 safety

With the need to maintain social distancing in the playground, zoned play areas have developed new importance, as they enable the school to better manage pupil bubbles. Children in different bubbles can be allocated a different zone in which to play and because it is within a defined area, children will better understand the limits of where they can play and the apparatus they are allowed to play on. This also makes the job of supervising much easier for staff and enables pupils from each bubble to enter and leave the playground more safely.

To ensure pupils get to participate in the full range of playground activities on offer, schools can rotate the bubbles from zone to zone on different days, making sure, of course, that the equipment is properly cleaned at the end of each day. Where there are staggered playtimes, cleaning will need to take place between the change-over.

The other advantage is that popular apparatus, such as climbing frames, obstacle courses and play towers, can be a temptation too much for children. If everyone heads for the same piece of equipment, social distancing goes out the window. Zoning prevents this happening, as children will know which zone they are allocated to and, if rotation is in place, will know they’ll get their turn eventually.

Zones for inclusion

One of the other major benefits of having a zoned school playground is that it can improve inclusivity. At the design stage, schools have the ability to consider the type of equipment they need to ensure pupils of all ages, abilities and interests are catered for. The playground designer can then use this to create purpose-built zones that address those needs and place them in the most appropriate location. For example, a quiet area can be developed for children with autism and placed away from the louder and busier activity zones, perhaps even with its own entrance back into the school building. Sensory areas can be created too, giving pupils a calm space in which to experience a variety of sounds, smells, textures and colours.

Similarly, sporty kids can be given zones with pitch markings and basketball nets and thrill-seekers can have zones containing Trim Trails obstacle courses, Tangled rope climbing equipment or a Freeflow climbing system. You can have messy play areas with mud kitchens, sandpits and magnetic water walls, imaginative roleplay zones with fantasy play towers, wigwams and pirate style playboats and creative zones with outdoor drawing boards, performance stages and outdoor musical percussion instruments.

For the more laid back pupils, you can even create a nature zone with planters, trellises and bug houses and furnish it with picnic tables, an octagonal shelter or some all-weather artificial grass to sit on and chat with friends.

Not only does zoning enable schools to cater for all these different needs and interests; it also allows the designer to make them more accessible. Safe pathways can be created to ensure all pupils, including wheelchair users, can easily get to all the apparatus without having to risk travelling through a busy space; while accessibility features can be built in so pupils, even if they cannot fully participate in activities or make full use of the equipment, are close enough not to feel socially excluded from their friendship group.

Conclusion

Zoned school playgrounds can transform a school’s outdoor space. They improve safety, assist with social distancing and provide schools with the opportunity to create accessible zones that cater for the needs and interests of all pupils.

To see what you can achieve with a zoned playground or to find out more about playground design, visit our Inspiration page.

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